JUPITER, Fla. -- Astros owner Jim Crane toured the Mets' Port St. Lucie Spring Training complex on Saturday morning, arriving via private helicopter. The Mets hope to convince the Astros to share their Digital Domain Park complex, potentially replacing one of the teams that have moved away from Florida's Atlantic coast in recent years. The Astros' current lease at Osceola County Stadium expires in 2015.
In particular, the Mets can no longer play the Dodgers or Orioles, two teams that used to train within a two-hour drive from their complex. Currently, only three clubs are situated within a 90-minute drive of the Mets: the Marlins, Cardinals and Nationals (who are also rumored to be considering a move). Two others, the Astros and Braves, train approximately two hours away.
Three of those five teams, which combined to constitute 81 percent of the Mets' spring schedule this year, are members of the National League East. That has been an issue for the Mets, who have kept their starting pitchers out of games on multiple occasions so as not to overexpose them to division opponents.
The Mets recently extended their lease at Digital Domain Park through 2023.
"I'd like to see more teams on this side of the state for sure," said manager Terry Collins, who unsuccessfully lobbied for the Mets to take an overnight trip to Florida's Gulf Coast this spring. "No disrespect to the Marlins or the Nationals, but you get tired of seeing those same faces every day -- especially the teams in our division. To have another team come in -- no matter who it is or where it is -- would be good for us."
Johan to start opener? Mets to decide Sunday
JUPITER, Fla. -- Mets pitching coach Dan Warthen stepped into the left-handed batter's box and proclaimed himself Michael Bourn, leadoff hitter for the Braves.
"He's taking the first pitch of the game," Warthen said, relaying the scouting report. Santana obliged with a fastball down the middle.
After a "strikeout" of Bourn, Warthen repeated the drill for Martin Prado and Brian McCann, shifting first to the right-handed batter's box then back to the left.
"Let's do a changeup," Warthen offered for the McCann at-bat.
"He's hacking, bro," Santana agreed.
So it went Saturday morning: Warthen doing his best impressions of Atlanta's batters and Santana delivering the pitches. Though Santana was still not ready to christen himself ready for Opening Day after his penultimate tuneup of the spring, an up-and-down bullpen session at Port St. Lucie, the Mets plan to make a final decision on Sunday.
If Santana does not pitch Opening Day against the Braves, he will almost certainly take the mound for the fifth game of the season against the Nationals.
"I'm not going to sacrifice six months, I'm not going to sacrifice the last two years of him working his butt off for one start, to have him pitch Opening Day," manager Terry Collins said. "We're going to sit down with a number of people involved and make the correct decision."
In what Warthen called a "free and easy" bullpen session Saturday morning, Santana threw 39 warmups and another 32 game-situation pitches in his final extended outing of the spring. All that's left for the left-hander is to wake up Sunday and gauge the health of his surgically repaired left shoulder, before throwing his final bullpen session on Monday.
Assuming nothing unexpected happens between now and then, Santana will follow that with his first regular-season appearance since Sept. 2, 2010. Once he does pitch, be it on Opening Day or a few days later, two months' worth of bullpen sessions, game outings and pitch counts will no longer seem to matter.
"This is just one stage to go through, Spring Training," Santana said. "Now, we've got to go through that consistency in the regular season."
Francisco's struggles continue in early action
JUPITER, Fla. -- A brief run of success for closer Frank Francisco turned out to be just that: Brief. Francisco allowed two runs in two innings against the Marlins on Saturday, the seventh time in 11 spring games he has allowed at least one run. Francisco, who joined the Mets on a two-year, $12 million contract this winter, holds a 5.54 Grapefruit League ERA, with seven strikeouts and four walks in 13 innings.
All spring, manager Terry Collins has attributed the closer's troubles to the lack of adrenaline in Spring Training games. That much, he said, was not an excuse during the third inning Saturday, in a game that saw Francisco attempt to keep the Mets within one run.
"Pitching where he did today, there should have been a little adrenaline," Collins said.
Outfielder Andres Torres played center field in a Minor League game Saturday for the first time since straining his left calf 12 days ago. Torres is scheduled to make another Minor League appearance Sunday, with the Mets still hopeful that he will avoid a disabled list stint to start the season.
Left-handed reliever Tim Byrdak walked a batter and allowed two runs in a Minor League game Saturday, his first live action since undergoing left knee surgery earlier this month. Byrdak is still hoping to be ready for Opening Day, though the Mets are preparing to carry Daniel Herrera on the roster if he is not.
The Mets on Saturday released Minor League infielder Justin Schafer and right-handed pitcher Michael Weldon.